Tuesday, January 08, 2008

the needs of children

So, I've not kept up with any blogs since about the last time I posted on my own - busy with Christmas and all - so I just now came across the debate between Danielle Bean and Gregory Popcak. I have previously written about how much I love Popcak, so you can guess my feelings on this latest discussion. There are so many things that I want to say about Attachment Parenting and how it relates to the Catholic faith... but right now the main thing sticking out at me is that I think many people have a real misunderstanding of what children, especially infants, need. Most would agree that they need their basic physical needs met: food, warmth, cleanliness, etc. But so many people stop there. Just because an infant (or a toddler or young child) cannot express all of their emotional and developmental needs does not mean that they don't have any. They do have REAL NEEDS - and it is just as important to meet these needs as it is to feed them, even though the effects of not meeting them may not be as immediately evident. Popcak's Parenting with Grace is of course a great resource here, as are the books by the Sears. Another great one is Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small. This book was incredibly fascinating to me - all about what babies are biologically designed to do and need, and how traditional cultures respond versus how modern cultures react. My only quibble is that she talks in the framework of how we have "evolved" to be this and that, just mentally substitute that we were created to be how we are, and you'll be all set. :)


Sabine said...

Hey Tracy! UGH! Someone sent me the link to Danielle's bog, I guess not realizing that my cortisol levels can't handle how mean-spirited and often ignornant anti-AP folks can be. People lose site that AP is about building relationships and that is easier when the physical needs are taken care but it doesn't mean it can't happen otherwise. And for what it's worth my 14yo son can remember nursing as 5 yo and is not disturbed in any way ;-)

Marie Giorgio said...

I came to your blog through Danielle Bean's after I read your comment there. I just wanted to make one, hopefully charitable, comment here. First let me say, that although my husband and I haven't used the AP techniques for our children, I do think that the gal who said that it is chid abuse that you have nursed your son so long was way out of line. It is your prerogative as parents to meet the needs of your child in the way you see fit.

Here's my comment: You said here on your blog " I think many people have a real misunderstanding of what children, especially infants, need. " So many of the readers of Danielle's blog are parents of many children. From perusing your blog briefly, I understand that you are 29 years old and have one son. I hope you understand that those of us who have had many babies (I've had nine) have much more experience and practice in meeting the needs of our babies, toddlers, and older children, not just knowledge that we've gleaned from a book and put into practice once (with one child). I do not mean this in a condescending way at all.....I simply mean to say - Give us a bit more credit, especially seasoned moms, that we DO actually know that infants and children have many more needs than just "food, warmth, cleanliness, etc".

There really can be a happy medium between those who implement AP techniques and those who use the Ezzo, Ferber, and other harsh philosophies. Rarely in my 17 years as a mother have I let a child cry.....very rarely. And I have certainly never spanked a baby for any reason. I have gently mothered my children, nursed them all, but also expected obedience from toddlers and older children. We home school all of our kids and I would venture to say that we have a VERY happy, healthy home life with pretty smart kids (am I biased?:). And the love between my husband and I has grown immensely as we've walked the parenting path together.

My point is that I think it is great that you and your husband have found a parenting style that has worked for you. Just don't assume that other people are getting it wrong, or only half-way right, simply because they do not subscribe to the same style. Dr. Popcak is way off the mark when he says in his latest letter to Danielle:
" I would simply argue that those who do not use AP are aiming with a gun that doesn't shoot straight. At the end of the day, the truth is that the degree to which parents do manage to hit the target at all is directly related to how many of the principles of AP they apply (and not just with their babies) whether they are aware of it or not."

I would be very cautious to totally buy into what Dr. Popcak says, seeing that he makes statements like the above. Very judgmental, though he claims he's not. I don't know how else to describe a person who gives his "opinion" as "truth".

I encourage you to keep parenting that handsome son of yours (great picture above!) with the AP philosophy since it is what is right for your family. I'm just kindly asking that you realize that some of us have indeed had lots of wonderful experience in gently and lovingly caring for our children without the use of AP. God bless you!

Teresa G (using my daughter Marie's gmail to make the comment.....)

Tracy said...

Teresa, thanks for your comment. I don't have much to add to what I and others have already said, except that I think there is an objective morality when it comes to parenting, and my age and the fact that God has only blessed me with one living child are irrelevant. Truth is truth.

Marie Giorgio said...

So, Tracy, are you saying that AP is THE ONLY "truth", or true way, that faithful Catholic parents can follow, and that my nine kids are somehow being parented wrongly? I just need you to come out and say this point blank if it is what you are implying by saying that "truth is truth".

Mary Poppins NOT said...

I am sorry if my (deleted?) comment offended. I just think this is an important topic. We are supposed to be on the same side. Blessings.

Tracy said...

Teresa, I make no judgement on your parenting. I think that AP parenting is objectively the ideal. It sounds like you follow many AP practices (and as Sabine pointed out, there is a lot more to AP than just the breastfeeding and co-sleeping that first spring to mind - I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any parent who isn't at least a little AP) - possibly more than I do, as I often fall short. (Case in point, I probably spent way too much time following this discussion today and not enough with my son.) So, I'm not a perfect parent, and I doubt you'd claim to be one either. Not being a perfect parent doesn't mean you are a bad parent. But being a good parent doesn't mean that you shouldn't aim for the ideal, either.

Mary Poppins, your earlier comment must not have come through. Feel free to repost it.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

Sorry, Tracy. I must have messed up on the word verification thingy and that's what happened. I was afraid I really offended you.

In a nutshell, I said essentially the same as the first commenter. I have seven children, and as they have all been different, and our life has offered particular challenges, my approach to parenting has had to change. I have breastfed all my kids, slept with them if it worked (two of my babies, once past say, three months, wouldn't fall asleep in my bed. They were still in my room. Some times I had more than one children in the bed, now any number of the younger kids will crawl in through the night.

As I had more children and began to home school, often times one of my older children would care for the baby while I schooled the other children. I did have baby sitters one night a week, so my husband and I could go out for a couple of hours. For us, is was a necessity. We had to keep our relationship healthy for our sakes, as well as the kids sake. Anyway, I'm rambling. I think I was a little more clear in the comment I tried last night.

You know, Dr. Sears saved my life practically with my second baby. She was a real HIGH NEEDS and had a terrible latch and I was in tears, she was in tears. His book, "THE BABY BOOK" was exactly what I needed. I tried many of the AP principles, and some were exactly what I needed. At the time, I had a 15 month old as well, so I had to modify. But I am so grateful for his advice. My high needs baby is now a 13 year old who is a terrific girl. She helps me with the other children so much, with great love, and it is a joy to see.

I mostly just wanted to say that the philosophy you have chosen to raise your son is wonderful, and even more so because it is such a great fit for your family. In our family, I couldn't have used exactly the same techniques and found peace and balance (I tried).

I think EBF is great, if you can. I struggled to keep them nursing for 18 months. My fertility would return quickly, and I had babies quickly. I have always tried to live according to the teachings of the Church, and parented according to the guidance of the church and the particular needs of my family.

I think we are doing the same thing in principle, just not in particular, and as Catholic mother's we need to encourage each other.

I loved the "hull breach" comment. Sounds like a very clever boy!

Peace, and all good.

Liz said...


As a late nursing mother myself (whose late nurser is now a very psychologically healthy adult thank you very much), I found the comments directed at you so offensive that I e-mailed Danielle about them. She did remove the very nasty video link, and she did remove the first, but not the subsequent offensive comments. That raised my cortisol levels sufficiently that I deleted the link from my blog to her site. I figure I don't have to promote offensiveness.

If I had it to do over again I'd still parent AP style. As a matter of fact, I wish I'd done it better with my first...

As far as big families are concerned, I'm a big fan of big families, even if I didn't have one myself. I'm encouraging my kids to produce lots of grandkids when they finally marry. However, one thing that I warn that mother of many is: smugness when your children are still in their teens is a very dangerous commodity. Just ask a couple of my friends whose oldest are now far from the faith they were raised in to the heartbreak of their mothers. Their kids for the most part were great teenagers, one boy even consider a vocation to the priesthood. However, college did many of them in (secular college and Christian college alike). One of the things you learn as an older woman is how little you really knew when you thought you had it all figured out. And that's my voice of experience.

I'll visit here again.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

"smugness when your children are still in their teens is a very dangerous commodity"

Does that apply to only mothers of many, or mothers in general? Smugness seems a bad idea regardless of the number of children one has.

I really don't think there needs to be any competition between differently sized Catholic families. I only had seven children because that is what happened. I didn't set out to have a big family, and at times wondered what the heck God was thinking? I don't see the size of my family as any indicator of virtue or wisdom. I hope virtue and wisdom are a product of loving them and raising them, and imploring God for His loving guidance.

I don't think that Danielle and Dr. Popcak have to be on different sides of anything, seeing as they are both of the same faith family, raising their children with intention and love and faith. Same with Tracy, Liz, Teresa, Sabine and me. We are all trying to do the same thing.

I have learned quite a bit about parenting from my children's choir director, who has no children. The love and respect he has for all children, and the respect he has from them has been a huge example and blessing to me. I don't know if he has a philosophy or style he would call his technique. I know he loves working with the children, and his gentle firmness and clear directions and realistic goals are wonderful to behold.

Basically, again, we are all on the same side, and I appreciate so much discussion the care and raising of our precious children.


Liz said...

No, I absolutely was not referring merely to mothers of many when I made the comment about smugness. The point I was attempting to make (apparently not well enough!) is that we often think (whether we are the mother of one,the mother of many, or even the mother of adults) that we've got this parenting thing figured out, that our experience (how ever big or little) makes us an expert and that people without our degree of experience can't compete. That's true for people who've had many children, but it's also true for people who've had fewer children, but perhaps particular kinds of experience (like extended nursing, or lots of miscarriages, or homeschooling, whatever). You honestly don't know (even when your kids are in their twenties) whether what you did worked, or whether God just exhibited a ton of grace. I simply was trying to point out that when your children are in their twenties or older you can begin to see that a lot of your theories may well not have been as foolproof as you thought when they were in their teens or younger (in the same way that you can see things when your kids are in their teens that you wouldn't have anticipated when they were 2).

It's also very interesting to hear your own children critique your parenting when they are grown. Quite frequently, I find, that the very things you did the most sacrificially, with the best intent in the world are sometimes the things that they most criticize. It's happened with me, it's happened with my friends, and it happened with my own mother and mother-in-law. I now appreciate my mother's and my mother-in-law's wisdom a lot more than I did when I was 29. That just seems to be the way it goes.

It is extremely painful to have your child criticize you for the very thing that you had to summon up every bit of self-discipline and sacrificial love that you had in order to do it in the first place. When that happens, you have to trust that you did those sacrificial things not just for results,or for their ultimate approval, but because that was what God was calling you to do at that point in your life, whether your grown child can recognize that or not.

What I know is that your child at 15 and your child at 25 can be very different. Sometimes it's different in a very good way. Sometimes it's different in a tragic way. Sometimes it's just different in a frustrating way (speaking as a sometimes frustrated mother of twenty somethings...) However, the experience of having adult children sometimes makes you a lot less, well ... smug.

Does that mean that there aren't better practices and worse practices? Of course not. It simply means that even the best practices don't come with a guaranteed result and that, thankfully, sometimes even the worst practices don't guarantee disaster.

I honestly believe that, in the long run, truly sacrificial love for our kids is what we have to give and then we have to place the ultimate results in God's hands. He will call each of us accountable not for following perfectly the tenets of Guardini, Sears, Dobson or Popcak. What he will call us accountable for is our willingness to treat our children with love instead of treating them as nuisances that get in the way of our own desires. These good men all have some valid points to make, but none of what any of them recommend comes with guaranteed success.

I still have strong beliefs that some practices are better and some are less good. If I had it to do over again, I'd still do some of the things my kids currently criticize as well as some of the things they are grateful for. I know that I was acting in the most loving sacrificial manner I was capable of. I'd just those things with a lot more awareness that the outcome was a whole lot more dependent on God's grace than the perfection with which I parented.

In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, but in ALL things charity may be the recipe for avoiding smugness.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

***applause**** wild Cheers and whistles!!!

This entire "debate" was worth every second of angst just to be able to read your response, Liz.

You should send that to the parties involved, because it speaks to the heart of everything we as parents are supposed to do. Your experience love and effort has definitely given you wisdom, and I thank you for sharing it so eloquently.

Liz said...

Thanks for your kind words Mary Poppins Not. I'm fortunate to have great kids who still communicate with us (and even live at home at the moment), but they are not perfect people, anymore than their parents are and they haven't quite reached the "Mark Twain" moment of realizing how wise their parents are...Maybe when they finally have kids of their own...

I think one of the things that has really brought the lesson of grace home to me is looking at some of my daughter's friends who had not so great parenting, but who are now very serious Catholics. In many ways their parents did things counter to most of those " best practices" yet these friends have turned out better than some of the kids I knew whose parents did things more "right" (at least thus far). God's grace is not automatically responded to following correct parenting practices nor is it prevented from reaching hearts by imperfect parents. I still believe that loving parenting better prepares hearts for loving our Heavenly Father, but thankfully even abusive parents don't necessarily keep their children from being reached by God's grace.